Eating disorders are multi-faceted, they affect the brain and the body, and for this reason there is often the need for a treatment team of professionals. In some instances, patients will receive treatment successfully from one source only, however in the majority of cases a diverse and collaborative treatment team is required.
When a patient leaves an inpatient care facility, it is vital that steps are taken to set up outpatient treatment before he or she leaves. The potential for relapse is higher if precautionary measures are not taken. Ideally, the treatment team involved should be professional individuals who are not only experienced with treating eating disorders, but who also have a relationship with the inpatient facility of care. This way, the different elements of the patient’s care can work together to ensure that the transition from inpatient to outpatient care is as smooth as possible.
In many cases, a person who is suffering from an eating disorder of any classification will have a better recovery experience if the necessary professionals are working together as a team.
The treatment team should consist of professionals who are specialists in the psychology and physiology of eating disorders and their complex natures. On the whole, general practitioners are not experts in eating disorders. Many doctors have not received the most recent updates on eating disorder treatment and research.
The Treatment Team
In most cases, if the sufferer is a child or teenager, it falls on the patient’s parents or caregivers to recruit and interview the members of the potential treatment team. These members might consist of:
- Eating Disorder Recovery Specialist Physician – This professional can set recovery goals and identify issues specific to eating disorders. This type of physician should be well experienced in specifically treating eating disorders.
- Primary Care Physician – This person may work to monitor the entire process in terms of overall health goals and general medical well-being. The health goals should be set up by a person who is a specialist in eating disorders, but a primary care physician should be able to work with the long-term realization of these goals.
- Therapist in Eating Disorders – This individual may be a social worker, a psychologist or a psychiatrist who is well experienced and trained in eating disorders. Sessions may consist of family therapy, individual therapy or often both.
- Eating Disorder Experienced Psychiatrist – This person may be a relevant addition to the team, especially if there are additional psychiatric disorders existing alongside the eating disorder. If the patient is a child or teenager, the psychiatrist should be board certified in treating children.
- Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist – This person should also be well experienced in the nutritional needs of a person who is recovering from an eating disorder. It is important that whoever is setting the meal plan for recovery understands fully that the nutritional needs for a person recovering from an eating disorder are different from that of the general population. Whole-family education around meal planning can also be beneficial.
Why The Treatment Team Should Collaborate
When a team of more than one clinician or professional is involved, it is important that these people can work together. Legal permission often needs to be given so that they can share files and confidential information. It is very important that all members of a treatment team understand that in order to best serve the patient, good communication is a must.
The correct level of clinical support can be an essential part of a person’s recovery when they have an eating disorder. It is also important that the family or parents are prepared to work closely with the professionals that are treating the patient. Trust, honesty, mutual respect and collaboration are some of the biggest factors in the relationships between the treatment team and the caregivers of a person overcoming an eating disorder.
During recovery, it is important that all patients are monitored by a medical professional who oversees the entire journey. When the time comes for the patient to leave a specialized eating disorder inpatient clinic, his or her treatment team should already be in place to make sure that the patient is supported through the rest of the recovery journey.
How to Select a Therapist
Eating Disorders Treatment: Your Doctor’s Role
Navigating Eating Disorder Treatment
Types of Eating Disorder Treatment Professionals: How to Find the Right One for You
Importance Of Getting Help And Being Honest In Medical And Therapy Appointments
Resources For Finding Treatment Providers:
Training Institute For Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders
Academy for Eating Disorders
International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation
Written by Tabitha Farrar – 2014